Care Work and Class: Domestic Workers’ Struggle for Equal Rights in Latin America

The recent history of Latin America is, in part, the stirring story of the political and legal inclusion of an ever-widening array of social groups that have seized opportunities created by democratic openings. As Blofield incisively chronicles, until recently, household servants and nannies, who compose 15 percent of the economically active female population in Latin America, were systematically denied basic labor protections. But in country after country, their advocates have improved their lot by making good use of democratic processes. Local conditions have defined the debates: in Bolivia, the campaign on behalf of domestic workers was framed as a continuation of the struggle for the rights of indigenous people, while in Costa Rica, advocates successfully appealed to the nation’s pride in its outstanding human rights record. Nevertheless, executive enforcement of new legislation often lags, ministries of labor lack adequate resources, and discriminatory laws remain in place in many countries. Significantly, in 2011, the International Labor Organization called on all its member states to honor the rights of domestic workers, bolstering the activists’ cause and pressuring governments to do better on this crucial issue.

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